A few weeks ago I was talking with a pastor and asked the usual question: How are things going at the church? He replied he had resigned a few weeks earlier. This had long been a troubled church, but under his ministry it seemed like things had improved. I learned that below the surface the same issues continued to bubble. Rather than fighting a battle he felt he could not win he resigned to do ministry elsewhere.
After over 30 years in the ministry I still do not understand some churches. Can they not see how dysfunctional they are? I've come to the conclusion that some of them can't. They have been like this for so long they have come to accept it as normal. I sometimes want to ask them the Dr. Phil question, "How is that behavior working for you?" Individuals in the church may see the problem, but they are unwilling to confront the problems so they either learn to live with them or they leave.
You can ask most of these churches what they want for their church, and many of them would tell you they want to grow and have a vital ministry in their communities. However, their dysfunction ensures that will never happen. People have enough dysfunction in their lives without having to be involved in a church that lives in continual drama.
Some of these churches believe if they could just call the right pastor their problems would end, but the problem isn't with the pastor. The person I mentioned earlier is a very competent minister who couldn't break through their dysfunction. The problems in such churches are internal with deep roots that run throughout the congregation. You usually don't have to scratch the surface very deep in many of these churches to find a controlling family or two, weak lay leadership, and an apathetic congregation. That is a recipe for disaster in any church.
Such churches are an offense to the Kingdom of God. Not only are they unable to offer any kind of effective ministry to the community, they turn the unchurched away from all churches. People are prone to judge all churches by the behaviors they see from the dysfunctional ones and assume the church, and God, can do nothing to change their lives.
I'm not sure there is much that can be done to help these churches. Until they are willing to admit and address their dysfunctional behaviors nothing is going to change. Sometimes this means that some people will need to leave the church. It will certainly require that attitudes will have to change, and in most cases it will require a change in leadership. Obviously, none of these are simple and each of them will create a lot of pain in the church. Few dysfunctional churches will be willing to endure that level of pain.
We live in a time in which we need strong, healthy churches. I wish these dysfunctional churches understood how much the Kingdom needs them and what an impact they could have if they could once again become a strong, healthy church. For now, most of them don't understand that. They just don't get it.